Imagine if the federal government were in charge of cleaning your house when you moved into it.
In this scenario, you would be free to clean it yourself, at least in name, but you would be held liable for any mistakes made by the previous owner that you uncovered.
Any missed spots on the baseboards, any tough-to-remove stains, or any holes in the drywall that you couldn’t fill yourself would result in penalties and fines that could bankrupt you before you even got completely settled. The only other option would be to hand over your keys to bureaucrats in order to avoid the costs.
Pretty soon, you realize that you have to choose between living in a dirty domicile and giving up control of your property for an undetermined amount of time. This prospect should sound pretty unappealing, but it is what land owners and developers in the United States have been dealing with for decades.Now imagine that such a setup contributed to one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent history. Such was the case for the Gold King Mine spill that devastated southwest Colorado in 2015. It made headlines when the Animas River ran orange with a cocktail of acidic heavy-metal compounds.
The law in question is the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, also known as CERCLA or Superfund. This is a federal law originally enacted to “provide for liability, compensation, cleanup, and emergency response for hazardous substances released into the environment” as well as the cleanup of waste dumping sites.
However, critics claim the law’s design discourages local governments and community groups from tackling cleanup efforts themselves, which can create long-term environmental problems like the one at the Gold King Mine.
In a new episode of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” debuting Wednesday on CRTV, Malkin delves into how this federal regulation creates an effective monopoly over environmental cleanup efforts, which may have led to the disaster that briefly dominated headlines after an EPA-overseen cleanup crew broke through a plug in the mine and devastated numerous local communities and economies downstream.
“What happens often with [CERCLA] is that these [restoration] matters get caught up in litigation for years,” Anthony Edwards, an attorney for the Town of Silverton and San Joaquin County in Colorado, explains in the episode.
Edwards and Malkin go on to lay out how design flaws in the statute can deter and clog cleanup efforts, sometimes for decades. The threat of huge fines and litigation deters private enterprise from taking action, until the federal government takes over — often leading to outcomes like toxic buildups in the hundreds of thousands of old mines that dot the landscape of the American west. When, after years of the delay game, the federal government steps in, the results can be disastrous, as they were at the Gold King Mine.